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Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland on a sunny day with green grass all around

5 Things To Know Before Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland

July 5, 2021 //  by  Iceland Trippers //   3 Comments

Looking to explore Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland? Gullfoss Iceland is one of the country’s signature waterfalls and it is no surprise to see why!

The waterfall is beautiful, unique, and in a good location so if you get a chance to visit, you should take it! Gullfoss brings something to the table that you don’t normally see which is what makes it so special.  Before you visit Gullfoss Iceland, there are a few things you should know to have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Planning your trip to Iceland last minute?

Make sure to book your hotels and tours in Iceland in advance to ensure availability! The longer you wait, the more difficult it gets. Here are my top picks for your trip :

Top Experiences And Tours In Iceland:

  • Golden Circle Full Day Tour From Reykjavik (Likely to sell out!)
  • Silfra Snorkeling Tour (Includes photos + only small group)
  • South Of Iceland Full Day Trip (Our pick!)
  • Whale Watching In Reykjavik (On a luxury yacht)
  • Northern Lights Bus Tour (Great to go with a local)
  • Ice Cave Tour And Glacier Hike (Likely to sell out)

Tickets You MUST book in advance:

  • Keflavik > Reykjavik Bus Airport Transfer (Skip the line!)
  • Sky Lagoon Entrance Ticket (Includes 7-step spa ritual)
  • Blue Lagoon Entry Ticket With Drink (Likely to sell out!)

Top picks for places to stay in Iceland:

  • Hotel South Coast (Great central location)
  • Grandi Reykjavik (Includes free breakfast)
  • Hotel Kria (Close to black sand beach)
  • Hotel Skaftafell (Mid-range price)

Gullfoss Waterfall is probably one of the first waterfalls you will visit in Iceland. For us, we arrived into Reykjavik and the next day we drove the Golden Circle and saw Gullfoss for the first time. Gullfoss Waterfall is such a fantastic introductory waterfall to see in Iceland because it is so unique and beautiful. It will not disappoint and you are really going to enjoy seeing this beautiful waterfall! 

Get a FREE printable “Hidden Gems In Iceland” E-book by joining our private  Iceland Facebook Group  and share your photos and ask for tips and tricks.

rainbow over gullfoss waterfall on a sunny day with blue sky

#1. Gullfoss Waterfall Is Only 1.5 Hours From Reykjavik On The Golden Circle

If you are staying in Reykjavik and only have a little time, Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland is a great choice to visit because it is relatively close to town and very memorable. Gullfoss is located on Iceland’s Golden Circle Drive which is a circle drive that begins and ends right outside Reykjavik.

Gullfoss Waterfall is located smack dab in the middle of the drive and is about 1 hour and 31 minutes from Reykjavik. The drive to Gullfoss on the Golden Circle is easy, well kept, and beautiful! To see Iceland’s Gullfoss Waterfall, budget at least four hours of time to get to the waterfall, explore, and then drive back. We promise you are going to also want to stop at all the beautiful viewpoints along the drive to Gullfoss too!

A visit to Gullfoss Waterfall makes a wonderful day trip from Reykjavik. You can easily drive yourself or you can choose to take a tour. Either way, the experience is memorable and the drive is easy. If you aren’t familiar with driving on the “right” side of the road or if you are visiting Iceland in winter and you aren’t used to driving in snow and ice, make sure to drive slowly and cautiously.

The roads in Iceland that lead to Gullfoss Waterfall are in very good condition, especially for an Arctic location. They are smooth and kept up, with no potholes and sketchy cliffs.

We are happy to report that a self-drive day trip to see Gullfoss Waterfall is easy and attainable for most people to visit on their own. This is one of the best stops along the Ring Road in Iceland and you really shouldn’t miss it! 

gullfoss waterfall in iceland on a cloudy winter day covered in snow

#2. Visiting Gullfoss Is Unique Because You View The Waterfall From Above Instead Of Below

Think of any waterfall you have been to. Chances are pretty high that you viewed that waterfall from the bottom! Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the natural wonders of Iceland and it is unique because you view the falls from above and it appears that the Iceland waterfall is actually going underground!

It is a very interesting perspective making Gullfoss one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. If this is one of the first waterfalls you see in Iceland, you will certainly remember it because it is one of the only waterfalls in Iceland with such a unique formation. 

Gullfoss plunges into a gorge of foaming water so there is no way you could possibly even view it from the bottom. There are multiple angles that you can view Gullfoss from above and each offers a stunning perspective of the powerful waterfall crashing into the river below.

Seeing a waterfall seemingly disappear into the earth is a very memorable experience! Whether you love photography or just want some great travel photos for your vacation scrapbook, Gullfoss Waterfall will not disappoint. 

gullfoss waterfall with a beautiful sunset sky and mist

#3. Gullfoss Iceland Is Open Year Round, But Some Viewpoints Aren’t Always Accessible

If you are visiting Iceland in winter, it is still very doable and easy to visit Gullfoss Waterfall. As we said above, the roads in Iceland and especially the roads that lead to Gullfoss are very well kept up. We have driven this route in the dead of winter and the roads were always in great condition. That being said, you will not have access to the same range of viewpoints as you may when you visit in summer or visit during another part of Iceland’s off-season.

The viewpoint from the Gullfoss Visitor Center is safe and well maintained and open year-round. There are also steps down to a lower viewpoint of Gullfoss that are open during winter too but they can become quite icey. Wear crampons if you have them and plan to explore in winter.

How do we know? Because we have visited Gullfoss in winter and have slipped and fallen on the stairs and onto our butts. Not only did it hurt but it is also potentially very dangerous! We were wearing snow boots with good grip, but it was still no match for the ice all around the viewpoints! 

There is a trail that leads down to an overlook that is directly on top of Gullfoss Waterfall that is open during the warmer months but now closed during the winter. If you are looking to see the waterfall from this view, understand that you may have to visit during a warmer time of the year. Visiting Gullfoss in the snow isn’t a bad experience at all and the ice all around the waterfall makes it look dreamy and unique! 

gullfoss waterfall with a lot of snow in winter at sunset

From the lower viewpoint, you will see a gate that will be blocked off during icy conditions or inclement weather. This gate leads to a pathway that brings you right next to Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland. It is an impressive view and allows you to get up close and personal with Gullfoss.

If you hope to see the traditional Gullfoss Waterfall view, you will always have the chance from the safety of the visitor center and nearby viewing platforms.

If you hope to stand right next to Gullfoss and shoot downstream, you may or may not be able to depend on what time of year you visit. We visited Gullfoss during the dead of winter at the beginning of March and this pathway was open. Another time, we visited during November in no snow and the pathway was closed. If you want to ensure you will get an up-close view of Gullfoss, plan your drive in Iceland during the warmer months.

gullfoss waterfall in summer on a cloudy day with green grass all around

#4. Using The Restroom At Gullfoss Waterfall Costs Money…..But There Is A Hack!

In case you didn’t know, many bathrooms in Iceland cost money to use! This is a super foreign concept to those of us from North America, but quite usual in Europe so be prepared! When visiting Gullfoss in Iceland, there are very nice and modern bathroom facilities in the Gullfoss Visitor Center parking lot.

They are quite prominent, clean, and often busy as Gullfoss Waterfall is a popular stop when driving in Iceland. These restrooms cost money to use and many people don’t know that until it is too late and they don’t have any spare change which is especially inconvenient if you are trying to visit Iceland on a budget. 

That being said, if you simply go inside the Gullfoss Visitor Center you will be able to use the restroom 100% for free! There is a shop and lunch cafe-style restaurant inside and nearby there is a warm and free bathroom! The majority of people don’t know about this free option and are stuck having to pay for the outdoor facility or not go at all! If you plan to visit, simply park your car and head inside for a free restroom experience!

Iceland's gullfoss waterfall plunging into canyon on a cloudy day with green grass

#5. Gullfoss Literally Translates To “Golden Falls” And It May Be Marked As Such On Your GPS

In Icelandic, Gull means Golden, and Foss means falls/waterfall. When you hear Gullfoss, that literally translates to Golden Falls. The rushing water of Gullfoss Iceland looks like a golden waterfall when the sun hits the water on a sunny day.

This name translation is worth noting because sometimes your GPS will call the location “Golden Falls” instead of Gullfoss Waterfall. Apple Maps vs Google Maps also have different markings depending on what you put in. You want to be sure you are heading to the correct location and not to some random part of the country! 

If you don’t know the translation, you could get very frustrated with your GPS for not bringing up the exact address or for taking you somewhere else. If you begin to type in Gullfoss into your GPS and “Golden Falls” comes up first with an address on Iceland’s Golden Circle, you are good to go and well on your way to Gullfoss Iceland!

deep in canyon with gullfoss waterfall on a moody day

Quick Tips For Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall 

-Any Time Of Day Is Perfect For Visting Gullfoss Waterfall. Gullfoss Waterfall is great to visit any time of day. Whenever you have time, you should go! There is truly no optimal time and the way the falls are situated means that you can easily photograph them without people being in your way!

There is no need to get here very early in the morning. If you are looking to photograph Gullfoss Waterfall, make sure to check the weather for the day you are looking to visit. If it is going to be cloudy, you are set to visit at any time of the day. If there won’t be a cloud in the sky, it will be better to go during “golden hour” which is during sunrise and sunset. 

-Stay On The Approved Trails And Walkways. When visiting Gullfoss, we highly recommend following caution signs and staying on the approved trails. It can be tempting to go off trail to get the perfect photo, but that photo isn’t worth your life!

Gullfoss Waterfall is very powerful and the ground may be unstable or uneven. This is especially true during the winter because snow may look safe but may end up being deceiving. Tourist deaths have sadly become more common in Iceland and the trails can get  very slipperty. You don’t want to put yourselves or the Icelandic rescue team in danger so make sure to practice safety and caution. 

-Dress Appropriately When Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall. You are going to want to enjoy your visit to Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland so be sure to wear the proper clothing! During the summer, the surrounding areas can be slippery and wet and during the winter, they will be icy or slushy. We have seen many people walking around Gullfoss Waterfall wearing wet Converse shoes or sneakers and we don’t want this to be you! Check out the best jackets for Iceland and the best shoes for Iceland for our tried and true recommendations!

-Leave No Trace. While this may sound obvious, it begs to be said. The more popular Iceland gets the more trash people leave behind. This is thoughtless and damages the environment. When visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland, make sure to leave no trace. Out on a hike? Don’t litter, and this includes cigarettes. If you are eating a candy bar or finish a plastic bottle of water, keep it with you until you reach a trash or recycle bin. Only you can help keep Gullfoss Waterfall trash free and beautiful!

-You Don’t Have To Drive To Visit Gullfoss Waterfall. If you are planning a trip to Iceland and don’t want to drive, you can still totally visit Gullfoss Waterfall! Many people visit Iceland on a stopover or aren’t comfortable renting a car or shelling out extra money and that is okay!

Many tours in Iceland will take you to Gullfoss Waterfall and these tours are actually the most affordable tours you can go on in Iceland! So if you want to see Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland and you don’t want to deal with driving, simply find a “Golden Circle Tour” and you will be all set! Check out Golden Circle Tours Here! 

people standing and looking at gullfoss waterfall in winter

Tips For Photographing Gullfoss Waterfall

If you are visiting Gullfoss Waterfall as a photographer or you just want to capture some beautiful images of this stunning place, here are some tips for you! First of all, sunrise or sunset will provide the best lighting. That being said, if you visit on a moody day when it is cloudy or there is weather in the area you are in luck because you can photograph it at any time of day.

No matter what time of day you visit, the waterfall is stunning and a great photography location. Our favorite time of day to photograph Gullfoss Waterfall is when it is cloudy/moody because you get to take great photos at any time of day and for as long as you want without rushing around early in the morning or later in the evening. 

If you are looking to capture a long exposure image of Gullfoss Waterfall where the waterfall looks silky smooth in your image, you are going to want to bring a tripod. We use this Benro Travel Angel tripod and love it for shooting in Iceland.

When choosing a tripod for your trip to Iceland, make sure to choose one that is very sturdy and reliable because Iceland can get quite windy and you don’t want your camera to fall over and get damaged. In order to get the silky smooth look, you are going to want to take a long exposure at Gullfoss Waterfall.

Put your camera on a tripod and then you are going to want to make sure that the shutter is open for 0.5-2 seconds [or more] depending on the lighting and time of day you are shooting Gullfoss Waterfall. 

When photographing Gullfoss Waterfall, there are multiple viewpoints you can shoot from as well! You can take photos from an overlook by the visitor center which is a great overall view of the waterfall. If you walk down the nearby stairs you will see a “lower” version of the same view.

If you visit during the winter, some viewpoints will be closed, but the waterfall makes for a stunning photographic centerpiece in the winter! If you visit during the warmer months, you are able to walk to a viewpoint which puts you right on top of the waterfall. This is such a great and unique viewpoint for shooting Gullfoss Waterfall. This is truly one of the best photography locations in Iceland!

people walking on path at gullfoss in iceland on a sunny day

Reader Interactions

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February 25, 2023 at 9:39 pm

Can you please give me information on the walking trail from the parking lot to the observation point of the Gullfoss waterfall. Is it a steep rocky path?

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February 27, 2023 at 7:14 pm

The view from above is easily accessible and not steep its almost a flat walk to view from above

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April 16, 2023 at 7:09 am

No, very easy path to walk on, some paved and some on compacted gravel and no steep path. there are some steps and again they are concrete steps, easy to walk down and up with handrails.

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Gullfoss Travel Guide

Long-exposure photo of Gullfoss waterfall on a cloudy day

Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found in the Hvítá river canyon in Southwest Iceland.

For those who rent a car  or take a Golden Circle tour , Gullfoss waterfall can be reached within two hours from Iceland's capital. Most of the guided packages around the country include a stop at Gullfoss, such as this popular 6-Day Vacation , as do almost all self-drive journeys, like this  7-Day Winter Road Trip .

The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, before cascading 32 meters (105 feet) down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power. This incredible site is seen by most visitors, as it is on the Golden Circle sightseeing route .

Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate features. The first, shorter cascade is 11 meters tall (36 feet), whilst the second drop is 21 meters (69 feet). The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70 meters (230 feet), descending into the great Gullfossgjúfur canyon. Geologists believe that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.

In the summer, approximately 140 cubic meters (459 cubic feet) of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic meters (358 cubic feet). With such energy, visitors should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray should they get too close.

As mentioned, Gullfoss makes up a part of the highly popular Golden Circle sightseeing route, alongside the  Geysir geothermal area and Þingvellir National Park . Many Golden Circle tours include additional activities that can be taken from Gullfoss, such as ascending the mighty nearby glacier Langjökull and entering its ice tunnels or snowmobiling along its gleaming surface.

Gullfoss was almost lost to a hydro-electric dam, but for the work of one farmhand.

In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the center of a controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman, Howell, sought to utilize the waterfall’s energy and harbored ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.

At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howell the land without the knowledge of a loophole that would allow him to proceed with his plans.

It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge to stop Howell’s ambitions. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm where she helped pave the first road to Gullfoss, she sought to get the contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer.

The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík, a distance of over 100 kilometers (62 miles). Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.

Her tenacity, however, resulted in success. In 1929, Howell withdrew from the lease, unable to keep up with the costs and difficulties of his plan. The waterfall thus fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people.

Today, Sigríður is recognized for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. As such, she is one of the most famous figures in Iceland’s history . Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.

Interestingly, the lawyer who assisted Sigríður, Sveinn Björnsson, went on to go down in history too; he became the first president of an independent Iceland in 1944.

Restaurant / Cafe

Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalize everyone’s taste buds: hot soups, sandwiches, salads, and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.

FAQs about Gullfoss waterfall

  • What is Gullfoss?

Gullfoss, also known as the "Golden Waterfall," is one of Iceland's most popular and iconic waterfalls. It is located in the southwest of the country, along the Golden Circle tourist route.

  • How tall is Gullfoss?

Gullfoss has two drops, one measuring 11 meters (36 feet) and the other 21 meters (69 feet), for a total height of 32 meters (105 feet).

  • How was Gullfoss formed?

Gullfoss was formed during the last ice age, when glacial runoff carved out a deep canyon in the Hvítá river. The waterfall is created by a series of cascades and drops that plunge into the canyon below.

  • Can you walk around Gullfoss?

Yes, there are several walking paths and viewing platforms around Gullfoss that offer stunning views of the waterfall and canyon. Visitors should be careful and stay on designated paths, as the terrain can be slippery and dangerous.

  • Can you visit Gullfoss year-round?

Yes, Gullfoss is open to visitors year-round. However, the best time to visit is during the summer months (June-August), when the weather is milder and the days are longer. During the winter months (December-February), the waterfall can be partially frozen and covered in snow, creating a beautiful winter wonderland scene.

  • Is there an entrance fee for Gullfoss?

No, but there is a parking fee at the Gullfoss visitor center, which is used to maintain the area and facilities. Visitors can pay the fee at a self-service machine in the parking lot. If you are visiting on a guided tour, then the parking fee is included.

  • What are some other nearby attractions to Gullfoss?

Gullfoss is located along the Golden Circle tourist route, which includes several other popular attractions, including the Geysir geothermal area , Thingvellir National Park , and the Kerið volcanic crater.

Popular Tours to Gullfoss

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Your In-depth Guide to Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall

With over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland, what makes Gullfoss such a must-visit site? In this article, we tell you just why the falls can be found as a top attraction in most tourist brochures,

where to find it, how to get there and reveal all the other interesting things one can do in the surroundings.

So, if you’ve got an upcoming trip to the island, or are just curious to learn more about this intriguing waterfall, read on. What you get to learn about Gullfoss Waterfall might surprise you.

Gullfoss Waterfall; a Powerful Waterfall that Makes for Powerful Images

Gullfoss Waterfall is incredibly beautiful, and has quite a distinct feature; instead of tumbling over cliffs like most of the fall

s on the island, Gullfoss plummets into a massive crevice.

Add the fact that the power of the falls can range from between 109,000 to a staggering 2,000,000 liters PER SECOND , and it’s easy to understand why it’s such a popular subject matter amongst both professional and amateur photographers here on the island.

Where is Gullfoss in Iceland?

Gullfoss Waterfall lies in the southwestern part of Iceland , in the canyon of the Hvita River. It’s just 113 kilometers from the capital city of Reykjavik, and conveniently located along the popular Golden Circle route.

How High is Gullfoss Waterfall?

This is not such a simple question because Gullfoss Waterfall actually consists of two tiers. So, whilst the entire waterfall totals a height of 32 meters, it consists of one tier that’s 11 meters and another that’s 21 meters.

Gullfoss

What Does Gullfoss Mean?

Gullfoss means “golden falls” . And whilst many say that it got its name because of the golden-brown hue the falls have on a sunny day because of the sediment in the water, we prefer to believe that there’s some truth to the Gullfoss legend…

What is the Legend of Gullfoss Waterfall?

The details of the legend will slightly differ depending on who you ask, but everyone can agree on the basics of the story; a man called Grygur was incredibly rich. But his greed and selfishness matched his incredible wealth. He was determined that no one will inherit his wealth after his death.

And, so the legend goes, Grygur hid his treasure behind the falls . With the powerful falls crashing down at thousands and thousands of liters of water per second, no one has ever been able to establish whether there’s any truth to the legend (and we don’t recommend you try to be the first), but we enjoy visiting the falls and imagining Grygur’s secret stash hidden away behind the veil of vast amounts of water.

How was Gullfoss Formed?

Gullfoss is the end result of a domino effect. Studies have proven that the glaciers of Iceland melted at the end of the last ice age . It is unsure of exactly why, though, and there are many theories regarding climate change and volcanic activity or even a combination of both.

But these melting glaciers caused major glacial flood s that carved their way through the earth, forming various canyons, caves, and crevices all across the country. One of these crevices is the one at Gullfoss that the Hvita River is now seen tumbling into.

When is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Gullfoss Falls in Iceland?

Both the roads around Gullfoss as well as the waterfall itself are open to the public all year round . And whether you visit during the warmer or colder months of the year, each offers a different type of magical experience.

From the rushing water running into a crevice with a lush green landscape surrounding it to a fall with frozen tentacles dangling into the crevice surrounded by a landscape covered in a thick blanket of snow. But it’s because of cold temperatures and other weather conditions that can make the hike to the falls unpleasant and slippery, that most will recommend that you visit the waterfall during the summertime here in Iceland.

gullfoss waterfall visit

What is the Best Time of the Day to Visit Gullfoss Falls in Iceland?

There is no specific time that makes visiting Gullfoss better than any other time. But we do recommend that you visit the falls either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when visiting during our busy peak season summer months. This is just so you can avoid most of those peak season crowds.

How Much Does it Cost to Go to Gullfoss?

Absolutely nothing. Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall won’t cost you a cent.

How Long Does it Take to See Gullfoss Waterfall?

You should set aside roughly 1 – 2 hours for visiting Gullfoss. This should give you enough time to take the walk down, spend some time at the various observation decks, and take all the photos you want.

Do you Get Wet at Gullfoss Waterfall?

Powerful waterfalls such as Gullfoss create a lot of mist and spray. So, depending on how the wind blows, you can get quite wet during your visit to the falls. We recommend that you wear waterproof clothing and bring a raincoat along.

The Gullfoss Hike

Unlike some of the other waterfalls in Iceland , there’s no need to take an actual hike to get to the falls, but it does require a short walk from the parking lot. But it’s a neat and easy trail to the falls.

gullfoss waterfall visit

How to Get to Gullfoss Waterfall

There are essentially three ways to visit Gullfoss:

Take a Guided Tour

You will find plenty of tour operators on the island that offers tours to Gullfoss. These range from day tours to multi-day tours that include a variety of Icelandic attractions. But all of these will take care of everything on your behalf, so you don’t need to think or worry about a thing regarding your excursion.

Catch a Bus

Various buses travel to Gullfoss from towns and cities all across Iceland. Some of the bus routes offer a direct trip to the falls, whilst others will require a bit of “bus hopping”

Drive Yourself

This is another easy way to get to Gullfoss and a great way to explore the island if you do a Golden Circle road trip.

Things to Do and See Near Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland

Whether you’re planning on making your visit to Gullfoss a day trip, or a stop on a Golden Circle road trip, you should consider adding the following to your trip itinerary:

Ride snowmobiles on Langjökull Glacier.

Check out Faxafoss Waterfall.

Take a snapshot of a geyser eruption at Geysir.

Go on a hike in Haukadalur Valley.

Where to Stay Near Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland

With so much to do around Gullfoss, it’s a good idea to sleep over so you can enjoy everything the area has to offer. There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from – from budget-friendly options like the Geysir Modern Log Cabin to more luxurious options like Hotel Gullfoss .

Gullfoss Waterfall; a Golden Opportunity for Amazing Photos

Although the sheer size of Gullfoss is already impressive, its unique coloring and the fact that the water plunges into a crevice make it an amazing spot to take photos. Add the legend of the mysterious treasure to the mix, and you have quite the interesting subject. If you go on one of our guided tours in Iceland , we’re sure you’ll learn even more facts about this intriguing waterfall here on the island.

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Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland: A Practical Guide

Gullfoss Waterfall stands as one of Iceland’s most prominent waterfalls – a tough call in a country that’s pretty much packed with them. Tucked away in Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, it’s one of the must-see sights on any Icelandic travel itinerary. Here’s why.

OK dudes. I went on another trip to Iceland a couple of weeks ago and it pretty much blew my mind. Where else can you go where you can see golden waterfalls, black sand beaches, mossy landscapes, glaciers and geysers all in the course of one day?

One of the real highlights of the trip was taking a peek at Gullfoss waterfall. Iceland’s waterfalls have to be seen to be believed. Millions of litres of water thundering into the abyss in a striking setting – it was always going to be a winner right?

If you’re visiting Iceland, there’s no doubt that Gullfoss is going to be on your itinerary. Read my practical guide to help you plan the perfect visit.

Why Visit Gullfoss Waterfall?

Gullfoss

Gullfoss Waterfall sits in The Golden Circle , a route that is brimming with spectacular natural sights that even give Gullfoss a run for its money. Sure, the Golden Circle is crowded and the chances of you getting any of the sights within it to yourself are slim to none, but it’s so very worth it.

This two-tiered waterfall is situated on the Canyon of the Hvita River and cascades from heights of 32 meters. The stunning natural surrounding coupled with the golden falls creates an air of mysticism around Gullfoss.

The atmosphere is only enhanced by a gentle layer of mist that cloaks the scenery on a cold day (watch out though, this mist is like the dementor’s kiss for your camera).

It’s not only one of Iceland’s most famous falls, but it’s also one of its most legendary. If you only do one thing in Iceland outside of visiting Reykjavik , this should be it.

What’s in a Name?

Gullfoss translates as Golden Waterfall, and there is a good reason for that.

When the light hits the water on a sunny day it reveals a beautiful golden colour. But why?

Gullfoss Waterfall contains plenty of coloured sediment, chiseled from glacial ice. It’s the yellow hue of this sediment that is the reason why Gullfoss is known as the Golden Falls in Iceland.

The History of the Falls

Gullfoss in the summer with a rainbow

Despite Gullfoss being a thing of beauty, it has something of a dark past.

In the early 20th century, the owners of Gullfoss, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, saw business potential in the waterfall. They wanted to harness its powerful energy to generate electricity.

Foreign investors caught wind of the idea and proposed building a hydroelectric power plant that would destroy the natural beauty of Gullfoss.

It is said that Sigridur Tomasdottir, Tómas Tómasson’s daughter, vehemently rejected this idea and did all she could in her power to prevent Gullfoss from changing.

She lead intense protests, walking barefoot from the falls to Reykjavík until her feet were bloodied and sore to show just how much this cause meant to her. She even went as far as threatening to throw herself into the Gullfoss Waterfall to prevent it from being destroyed.

Thankfully this was avoided with the help of her lawyer Sveinn Bjornsson, who later went on to become the first president of Iceland. They won the case and Gullfoss became the people’s property and remained open to the public.

There is some skepticism about the truth of this story. But you shouldn’t miss the chance to see the commemorating memorial of  Sigridur Tomasdottir. Sculpted by Richard Jonsson, it sits by the Gullfoss Waterfall to be seen by thousands of tourists every year.

Top Tips for Planning Your Visit to Gullfoss

Practical information.

Address: Gullfoss , Bláskógabyggð , 801 Selfoss , Iceland

Opening Times: Weekdays:  10:00 – 19:00, Weekends:  10:00 – 19:00

Getting There

The distance from Reykjavik to Gullfoss is around 120 km. You can get to Gullfoss in a number of ways.

Enjoy the best of the Golden Circle on this Golden Circle Full Day Tour . This fully guided tour offers visitors to Iceland a chance to explore the Golden Circle, with pick up and drop off in Reykjavik.

Along with Gullfoss Waterfall, the tour covers the famous geothermal Geysir area, the explosive hot spring of Stokkur and meanders through the Þingvellir National Park, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. Add to that a memorable trip to the volcanic crater at  Lake Kerið and it’s undeniably one of the best ways to see the area if you are short on time.

Driving from Reykjavik

If you want more independence, I would recommend checking out car rentals and driving the Golden Circle so you have the freedom to roam as you please.

Setting off from Reykjavik, head around 54 kilometers east on the Ring Road then turn left onto route 35. Stay on route 35 for 68 kilometers until you reach the waterfall.

A one way bus journey usually costs about Kr 3400-4000 per person.

Bus timetables can vary so always allow for some flexibility in your schedule. The Bílar og fólk Bus Line 2 runs twice a day from July to August from Reykjavik bus station. The Bílar og fólk buses run between Reykjavik and Akureyri, stopping at Geysir and Gullfoss.

Can You Visit Gullfoss Waterfall in Winter?

Gullfoss in Winter Waterfall

Iceland thrives in winter and Gullfoss is no exception.

Gullfoss Waterfall can most definitely be visited during the winter periods.  There are many people who argue that it is even more picturesque when it is cloaked in snow. Guess the only way to know for sure is to visit in the summer and the winter right?

If you do visit Gullfoss in the winter, be aware that some paths to the waterfall may be closed off during the snowy season.  The view from the Gullfoss Visitor centre is safe and available all year round.

Before venturing out onto the slippery paths, be sure to wear sensible shoes with good grip on them.

If you visit during the winter, there’s a good chance you can see the striking sight of the semi-frozen waterfall – the reason it’s also called Gullfoss frozen waterfall. Get your cameras ready, this is something that you won’t want to miss.

Visiting Iceland? You should also check out these articles

  • The Best Time To Visit Iceland
  • Planning a Trip to See the Northern Lights
  • Reynisfyara – Visiting Iceland’s Most Famous Black Sand Beach
  • How to Visit the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs
  • How expensive is it to travel to Iceland?

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Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland: A Practical Guide

I’m Julianna Barnaby - a professional travel writer and geek extraordinaire. I started The Discoveries Of to help you to discover the best of new destinations from around the world.

Discovering new places is a thrill - whether it’s close to home, a new country or continent, I write to help you explore more and explore differently.

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Nice photos! I dont get tired looking at them. The places are so beautiful but you made them a lot more beautiful with your great skill. I don’t know what am I waiting to see Iceland with my own eyes ? Beautiful pictures ? it seems really cool! Iceland is great, no matter what time of year. Hope i get to tick that item off my bucket list soon. ? is there an entrance/admission fee to see the Gullfoss Waterfall/ Pingvier National Park? Thank you so much.

Hey Oliver – so glad you enjoyed. I really hope you get there soon – nope, no admission fees to enter. ?

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COMMENTS

  1. 5 Things To Know Before Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland

    Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the natural wonders of Iceland and it is unique because you view the falls from above and it appears that the Iceland waterfall is actually going underground! It is a very interesting perspective making Gullfoss one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls.

  2. Gullfoss Waterfall Travel Guide | Guide to Iceland

    Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found in the Hvítá river canyon in Southwest Iceland. For those who rent a car or take a Golden Circle tour, Gullfoss waterfall can be reached within two hours from Iceland's capital.

  3. Gullfoss Waterfall - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

    Gulfoss is deservedly the most visited waterfall in Iceland. Its popularity is due to three reasons. It is relatively close to Reykjavik. Gulfoss is part of the most popular route in Iceland - the Golden circle.. and, of course, it's damn beautiful! The trick of the waterfall is its unique composition.

  4. Your In-depth Guide to Gullfoss Waterfall

    Gullfoss Waterfall (a.k.a.) the Golden Falls of Iceland) is one of our must-visit attractions. Here’s what you need to know for your upcoming trip. With over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland, what makes Gullfoss such a must-visit site?

  5. Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland: A Complete Guide

    Gullfoss Waterfall stands as one of Iceland’s most prominent waterfalls – a tough call in a country that’s pretty much packed with them. Tucked away in Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, it’s one of the must-see sights on any Icelandic travel itinerary. Here’s why.

  6. A Guide to Gullfoss: Iceland's Most Iconic Waterfall

    Gullfoss is a breathtaking waterfall cascading in two tiers down a big canyon. In this guide we will provide you with all the essential information so you can make the most of your visit to this iconic landmark.